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How to be Awesome Libby

Life Was Tough

This weekend I went camping with my family. We usually do a car camping kind of thing (drive up in the car, pitch the tent, open up the bundle of wood we bought at the camp store, go a few steps to a pump for water, fire up the camp stove to make mac ‘n cheese, sit and sip cocktails in the nice firelight)…fun! Not this weekend. This weekend we had to hike half a mile – in the rain and mud with all our stuff – to stay in a cabin with no running water, an outhouse halfway up the hill, collecting and processing our own wood…a different kind of fun, to be sure, but easy it is not.

It’s amazing what we take for granted. I’m not saying our problems are not important and that we should all shut-up and stop complaining, but it is very interesting to compare the trials of having to wait in line for self-checkout with having to hike .25 miles to the spring every time you need water. It kind of helps put things into perspective.

This is something my husband and I have done on several occasions on our own, and we’ve taken our son a few times as a carry-in-a-pack age baby, but this is the first time he’s come as a real kid. We were interested to see how the unplugged experience would resonate with our digital native boy. There were some negotiations regarding the bringing of his laptop (I won with the logic that he’d have to carry it himself), but ultimately, we were all device free. During the day, we did “chores,” hiked around, looked for crayfish, ran screaming through the woods (one of us); at night, we read books, told jokes, played UNO, checkers and Yahtzee at night. It was exhausting, but delightful.

The book Joey and I are reading together is Farmer Boy, the second in the Little House series. It is an historical fictional account of a nine-year old boy who lives on a farm in upstate NY in the 1860s – the story focuses on all the chores (morning and night), work on the farm (animals and plants), daily routines of bathing, cooking and going to school (when he doesn’t have farm work to do, of course). Joey and I are both exhausted by the end of every chapter! It has led to a new appreciation on his end for zippers, Gore-Tex, toilets and the refrigerator. He even has changed his morning refrain to “I can’t wait to go to school today!”

These reminders – both in theory and practice – have served to reframe some of my thoughts on my own daily routine (laundry, dishes, dinner…) and as a result, I have found peace in the daily minutiae. A shout-out to the men and women of the past, who worked so hard to feed, clothe and care for their families – all their hard work, struggles and lack of “downtime” have made it possible for me to look at their daily chores as recreational activity, for me to read to my son at night, and then blog about it.

– Libby Bingham

Categories
Book Reports Libby

The Poisoner’s Handbook

I am a pretty avid reader – I must read anywhere from 3-6 books a month. Not bad considering it’s all pretty much done in 10-30 minute increments right before I fall asleep drooling on the page (“Note to self: don’t lend Libby any books…”). I love reading and always have – it is a great way to learn something or escape something. I love the way I can fall in love with a character and by the end feel so sad it’s over like we just broke up (the tragically sad Victoria in The Language of Flowers), or even get angry at some long dead historical figure (I’m looking at you, General George B. McClellan!).

My husband, who can only read if something is on an electronic device, is aware of my love of reading – over the years he has kind-heartedly mocked me for bringing piles of books on our canoeing trips or shoving them into our suitcase for international adventures (yes, he bought me a Kindle). He is also very gentle when marking my drooled page and turning out the light. For Christmas, he bought me a book entitled The Poisoner’s Handbook. Was this a request, a challenge or a lark?? Whatever it was, it was awesome.

It is one of my favorite kinds of books: non-fiction that reads like fiction…a page turner with true moxie! This book ranks right up there with The Devil in the White City (read it!). Poisoner’s is all about the birth of forensic science and focuses on all the everyday household products that existed at the turn of the century (the last one, not this one) that could kill you. It is the intersection of Prohibition (what a terrible idea…really, terrible), breakthroughs in scientific methodology, and murder. It mostly follows one guy, Charles Norris, who was the first Chief Medical Examiner in New York City who actually knew about science and medicine and wasn’t on the take. He forms a team of smart, curious people (Alexander Gettler was a chemist who was just obsessive enough to pretty much create modern toxicology) who are either solving murders or outing the government for failing to protect the people. It’s outrageous and you’ll thank your lucky stars that these guys existed…otherwise, you may never have!

– Libby Bingham

Categories
Career Libby

Nice to Meet You!

I just had my ten year work anniversary…what?! Out of that decade, almost 7 of those years have been spent working from home. I go into the office occasionally, but not on any regular kind of basis. This arrangement works well for getting my job done, as well as doing what I need to for my family. When I do go in, I see the people I need to see, and my office friends that I don’t necessarily need to see but want to see. I also see a whole host of people that are completely new to me…and me to them! (You should see some of our stare-down-face-offs in the elevator; we’re on high alert here in the Nation’s Capital – “see something, say something”.) I’m a friendly sort and usually end up being the first to say hello and identify myself. I typically get one of two reactions: a blank stare and a “nice to meet you” or a wide-eyed “oooohhh…nice to meet you.” I’m not sure which is worse: not being known at all or being known by reputation. I’m not saying my reputation isn’t earned (love me or hate me, I think, are my two general camps), but it’s disturbing when it somehow follows you like a ghost. I mean, catch me in action before you make a judgment, people!

In that spirit, I’d like to offer a bit of advice for people working remotely. Face-to-face relationship building becomes more important than ever – whenever possible, show your face! Meet a colleague for coffee, go in and pick your boss’ brain for an hour, attend a non-mandatory meeting. And maybe a smidge of advice for you office folks working with colleagues who are outside the office? Try to involve your faceless co-workers in non-traditional ways – share a bit of office gossip in a virtual water-cooler situation or maybe try to meet them on their own turf for a post-work happy hour drink. I’ve had many opportunities to build a relationship with folks over the phone or email that was been strengthened with just one short, informal interaction (and there are some folks I would prefer to ONLY have a virtual relationship with!!). Whichever side of the equation you sit on, it’s important to put a face to a name, actions with a reputation, the personal with the virtual. To be fully satisfied with being a teleworker, it is important to become fully vested in both the status AND the people. I’m hoping this recipe allows me to embrace my semi-anonymity for the next ten years!

-Libby Bingham

Categories
Inside My Head Libby

Involved and Engaged

I’m what my mom calls a “Do-Bee” – since I was a little kid, I was a helper, pitching in, taking the lead on school projects and the like. Back in the day, when I used to work in the office, I was a pretty involved employee – I volunteered for party-planning, task forces, charitable give-backs and the whole thing. Now I’m so far removed from a daily office routine that I usually go in on a Sunday so I don’t bogart the copy machine. It’s not so much that I miss the specific activities, but I now have to find other ways to expend my Do-Bee energy. Last year this looked like me being a homeroom parent for Kindergarten (talk about demanding!), summer camp researcher and family reunion organizer. This year it’s more like the outdoor classroom’s pond committee chair, hockey mom and retirement party organizer. All this activity should make me feel good, connected to the community and fulfilled, right? What I really feel is just plain tired.

How do I stop the Do-Bee cycle? Why am I compelled to volunteer, to help, to be involved, to do more? The thing is that if I’m not doing, I feel anxious, like I should be doing something (yes, please feel free to send me your therapist recommendations.), but when I am engaged in all these activities, I feel like I’m doing nothing well. Luckily, a friend recently posted an article on Facebook ( I definitely do NOT have time for Facebook, but this was worth it…) that spoke about women needing to cut themselves a break on how they’re living their lives – constantly worried about whether or not we’re making the right choices and if we’re doing enough and doing it well. It made me think in a new way about all the things I do – family, work, my Do-Bee activities – and I realized that I’m doing okay. I have my bad days, but generally, I can keep it all together and be a pretty good wife, mother, friend, worker, scheduler, planner and participant. Sure, I’m tired, but if I take a little pressure off myself, I realize that I’m pretty happy, too. That’s okay – not perfect, but pretty cool.

– Libby Bingham

Categories
Career Libby

Be Prepared

No matter what you think of them, the Boy Scouts have a really kick-ass motto: Be Prepared. In my personal life, I’m probably less prepared than most – I’m constantly running out of milk, TP, not having child care plans for snow days… But at work? That’s a different story. I am usually at the top of my game, with planning and preparation as my two most important tools.

Being unprepared is not pretty. This applies to pretty much everything: not reading background documents, not anticipating the right number of people at a meeting, not practicing presentation remarks or even not making contingencies for bad weather. Preparation is more than half the battle – if you want to be considered a professional, you have to prepare. That means reading up on your industry, staying abreast of trends (management, education, technology, etc.), maintaining and building your network and learning how not to be reactionary. Keep on top of your work and you won’t be caught off guard. If you are doing a presentation, don’t wing it – read the materials, practice speaking in front of a mirror or with others, anticipate questions and be ready to answer them. Sure, things happen that you don’t see coming, but if you’re prepared, you can roll with the punches and still do what needs to be done. As a professional, you are not working in a vacuum – what you do or don’t do affects other people’s work. Consider how preparation can affect your reputation. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful forces out there…be prepared to have it work in your favor!

-Libby Bingham

Categories
Jams Libby

Unwritten

Can we talk about the song Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield? First of all, this woman has some pipes. And even if you’re not a fan of pop, it is quite the catchy tune. But more than that, this is one inspirational ditty. I think it was originally introduced to me by my colleague, Megan, who is one of the most upbeat, positive, inspired people I know. I am sure it was after some confession of anxiety or self-doubt over coffee (aka martinis) that she sent me the link or had me connect to her iTunes player, and man, it did the job – I went from zero to hero just listening to it (I’m sure I cried a little, too). Since then, the song has become a touchstone for me on a pretty regular basis – it is really about having faith in yourself and forgiving yourself. We all make mistakes (some of us, ahem, more than others) but that doesn’t mean everything is an epic fail. At the very least, we are wiser from our experiences. Our futures are not static and therefore can be changed as long as we believe in ourselves. So, stop beating yourself up, take a deep breath, “open up the dirty window” and “feel the rain on your skin”…try again. Starting fresh is liberating and a great way to stay positive. Every day can be a do-over if you need it to be…the rest is still unwritten!

-Libby Bingham

Categories
Career Libby

What I Want to Be When I Grow-Up

My boss just recently told me that she is retiring after many years in teaching and over three decades in association management. We talked a bit about what she’s going to do once she doesn’t have to come to the office on a regular basis and she mentioned spending more time with family and friends, exercising, theater and the like. But the thing that sticks with me most is that she wants to live abroad in impoverished areas and teach little kids. Now, she’s got a pretty cushy deal right now: a big corner office, travel to resorts for meetings, teleworking, etc. To hear her talk about leaving it all behind and getting down in the trenches kind of threw me – I mean, that’s pretty cool. It also got me thinking, what the heck do I want to do when I grow-up?

I think this is a thought process much longer and complicated than I could (or should!) put in a blog post, but it’s definitely worth putting out there…if you could stop doing what you’re doing and do something else, what would it be? Certainly there are practical considerations – I’m never going to be a figure-skater or a whale biologist – but barring those (and a few others), there are a lot of possibilities. My boss went back to her roots as a school teacher…unfortunately, my roots are in food service and I don’t think I want to go back, but could I go forward? Could I finally work as a park ranger or red carpet security agent? Maybe, maybe not, but if I start thinking – and doing – now instead of waiting until I retire, maybe I can spend more time doing things that are closer to my heart and get closer to what Catherine talked about in “Loving What You Do.” I realize now that my boss’ plans are not just her own, but mine as well – she has created for me an opportunity for self-reflection and reshaping the direction of my own career trajectory…thanks, Anne. Now, excuse me while I search for open mic nights at my local pub…

-Libby Bingham

Categories
Inside My Head Libby

You’re My Greatest Inspiration

So a couple weeks ago, Joey, my 6 and half year old son, climbed into bed with me in the middle of the night (we’re working on it). I was somewhat startled awake by a soft little caress on my cheek – I opened my eyes and his face was right there. Smiling at me in the dark. I smiled back (what else can you do?) and he said, “Mama, have I told you that you’re my greatest inspiration?” So I did whatever any mom would do in that lovely moment and said, “Can I inspire you to go back to sleep?”

The next morning I was in a better frame of mind to really think about the whole thing – I cried a little at the beauty and laughed at it, too. I was also impressed that he knew a word like “inspiration” (a work colleague suggested that maybe he had been listening to Peter Cetera and Chicago on the down low…). And finally, I was terrified. Me? Somebody’s “inspiration”? Come on.

People who inspire other people are GREAT people, people like Martin Luther King, Jr. (happy birthday, by the way), Ghandi and Susan B. Anthony. Inspirational people are those that change the world and have grand thoughts; guts AND glory. Not me. But then I looked up the definition; according to Merriam-Webster online it means:

something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone; a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something; : a good idea

These definitions put inspiration into a totally different light for me – I started thinking about how Pink’s music can inspire to me to go to the gym more, how my friend – who is a mother of twins, works part-time out of the home, fights for reasonable gun control measures in her spare time, bakes and is still laid-back and funny – inspires me to be more engaged, how my husband’s small gestures of love and respect inspire me to reinvest in our relationship on a daily basis, and how an appreciative word from a member or colleague about a program or project inspires me to want to do even better.

I am Joey’s primary caretaker – I get him ready in the morning, walk him to school, pick him up, hang out with him afterwards, take him to music and hockey practice, etc. We spend a lot of time together – it’s not always fun – it can be stressful, exhausting and we are both cranky sometimes. But when I think about his ability to read chapter books on his own, use words like “inspiration”, try new activities like taekwondo and the School of Rock all on his own, tie his shoes and say something kind to his friends or the lady at the grocery store, I can kind of see how I’ve inspired him…and remember how he inspires me every day to be more than I think I am and maybe even inspire someone else. You can be inspirational, too…how cool is that?

 

-Libby Bingham

Categories
Libby New Friends

Introducing Libby Bingham, MBA, CAE

It’s been a quiet week here in the Creative Community, but that’s because we’ve been busy behind the scenes. I’m thrilled to announce that a few new folks will be sharing their worlds with you. Over the next couple weeks, you’ll be meeting some of my favorite people and getting a chance to find out what inspires them. They’ll be sharing here regularly as well, and I know you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.

The first newcomer is Libby Bingham. I’ve known Libby for about a decade or so, and simply knowing her makes my life better. One of the first things people comment on is Libby’s sense of humor. She is wickedly funny and can get a laugh from even the crankiest of cranks. And while I do admire her wit, she’s so much more than just the funny girl. She is creative, loyal, smart, determined and has the world’s most generous heart (seriously, you can Google it…). Everyone I’ve asked to be a part of this project has a unique perspective on the world, and Libby adapts easily to almost any situation because she is genuinely interested in learning about those around her. She asks lots of questions and is quick to share her experience and find common ground. I’m incredibly lucky to call her a friend and colleague, and I’m grateful to her for sharing her time and talents here. And with that, I’ll let her tell you a little about herself.

Libby
Libby Bingham, MBA, CAE, Fun at Sea

When Catherine asked me to blog for her, I was shocked…I mean, really, what could I possibly do or say that would be of interest to other people?  I’m a middle-aged married mom of one kid, and I work part-time from home.  I was also very intimidated because, well, it’s hard to put yourself out there.  However, we discussed and I realized that there are probably a lot of people who share similar circumstances, and maybe, because I’ve just been given a platform, I could also give voice to some of similar day-to-day experiences or spark them to articulate things which are important to them.  That is cool…and important.  So I’m in.  If you don’t like what I say, that’s okay – everyone’s perspective is different and shaped by their experiences and personal histories.  Just be kind…I promise to do the same.

All that being said, I have done a few interesting things in my life:  I’ve lived in Switzerland, France and Saudi Arabia, as well as visited other countries. My professional life has included directing a coalition of businesses dedicated to building infrastructure and knowledge capacity all over the world; executive director for an association focused on providing an unbiased forum to discuss issues of international trade; working with teenagers interested in living and learning abroad; catering, waitressing and shoe-salesmanship!  At present, I am focused on developing educational programming for ASAE, both as a program manager and instructional designer.  One of my favorite parts is collaborating with our members and speakers – it allows for variety and creative approaches. I’m an avid reader (expect many book reports from me!), part-time gym goer, lazy gardener and hockey mom.  I look forward to getting to know you!